SINGAPORE, Dec 22 ― Singapore authorities are freezing the sale of Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) flights into the Republic from all VTL countries as well as bus tickets for travel into Singapore or Malaysia via the VTL (Land) from December 23 (Thursday) until 11.59pm on January 20, in response to the growing threat of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

And for entry into Singapore from January 21 onwards, total ticket sales for both VTL flights and buses will be halved.

“We will continue to monitor the situation closely and adjust the VTL (Land) capacity, taking into account the public health situation in both countries and globally,” the ministerial task force handling Singapore's Covid-19 response said in a statement on Wednesday.

Travellers who already hold a ticket on a VTL flight or bus and meet all the other VTL requirements can continue to travel under the VTL, the task force said.

It added that Singapore has been detecting more Omicron cases because of the rapid spread of the variant across many countries and regions. Thus far, there have already been 65 confirmed Omicron cases detected here.

“It is a matter of time before the Omicron variant spreads into our community,” it said.

“Our border measures will help to buy us time to study and understand the Omicron variant, and to strengthen our defences, including enhancing our healthcare capacity, and getting more people vaccinated and boosted.”

In a Facebook post, Transport Minister S. Iswaran said that some may be disappointed by the latest changes, but that it is an “essential and prudent measure to protect public health”.

“As part of our careful and calibrated approach to border reopening, it is crucial that we tighten our safeguards when warranted by the public health risk assessment, to protect the health and safety of our fellow Singaporeans, frontline aviation workers and travellers,” he said.

More safeguards for airport workers and air crew

In a statement today, CAAS said that it will further step up safeguards and requirements to protect the aviation community with the following:

― Enhanced personal protective equipment, including N95 masks and face shields for all airport workers who interact with arriving passengers. This includes those working in public areas such as taxi stands.

― All frontline airport workers will minimally be placed on seven-day Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) rostered routine testing (RRT), instead of the current seven-day Antigen Rapid Test (ART) RRT cycle.

― For higher-risk frontline airport workers, there will be an employer-supervised ART on the third day in between their seven-day PCR testing cycle.

― There will be an enhanced seven-day PCR rostered routine testing regime with an employer-supervised ART on the third day of the cycle for Singapore air crew.

CAAS said that these safeguards are on top of measures implemented when the Omicron variant first emerged last month, which include tightening of testing protocol for VTL travellers and tightening of personal protective equipment and testing protocols for airport workers and air crew.

“CAAS will continue to closely monitor the evolving COVID-19 situation and adjust the measures to protect travellers, airport workers, air crew and the community,” it said. ― TODAY